Skin in the game (SITG) goes past personal investment in endeavors, to potential loss or harm shared when an effort goes south. In larger senses we need organisational SITG to adjust culture or sector behaviours – with potential harm implicit for collectively falling short.
There are a lot of aspects to consider in shifting a culture, with skin in the game as far from the least. I’m not going into anything but a top level view for something we know instinctively, but often fail to capture in consideration. Skin in the game is not only the desire to work on something, but also the personal investment that offers potential loss at its failing (why it helps having catastrophes or enemies, where loss is endemic or implied). For example, in Operational Resilience, we are talking about shifting aspects of a culture in order to create a different standard in how we think and do business. In order to make those shifts effectively, we need people to have a potential loss from those shifts not occurring. We need a vocal minority who will be inflexible with a limited loss to the larger majority adopting the needs. We need … a lot of things.
Now can a project without skin in the game fail? Adages regarding good intentions notwithstanding, not likely. However, will it produce the results to shift an enterprise’s culture? Also unlikely. We set our goals and efforts with markers for success, and often those markers are set to limit challenge. Minimal loss creates less personal investment, less skin in the game. Without a larger level of commitment focus centres in our own areas, disconnected to anything past personal and immediate team interests.
Now, tying it back to the current COVID-environment, this is the perfect storm to rethink our priorities. Some of our status quo has – by default – been forced wayside. If leadership wants opportunity to redress aspects of culture and thought necessary for the paradigm to shift, they have the present and a few recovery months following to do so. Wait longer and the opportunity is missed, and we go back to a slightly adjusted status quo. It may be fine (I’ve certainly not the visibility), but it won’t lead to the shift required for changes in culture to become a foundation piece, nor will any of us be considered thought leaders for adjustments uncovered.
A checklist for our current perfect storm:
- People are looking for answers, comfort, and security. Check.
- People come together in time of crisis. Check.
- Cyber and OpRes haven’t an industry standard bearer to date. Also, check.
Perfect conditions to set ourselves apart from our peers.
Question is: will we?